Towards the regulation of interactive gambling: An analysis of the gambling regulatory framework in South Africa

Abstract

With the exception of horse racing, any form of gambling was criminalised in South Africa until the dawn of constitutional democracy in 1994. In the same year, the Lotteries and Gambling Board Act, 1993, came into force decriminalising, amongst others, casinos and gambling games within the Republic. This Act has since been repealed and gambling is governed by the National Gambling Act, 2004, as well as by provincial gambling laws. Interactive / online gambling is illegal pending authorisation by a national legislation. Such legislation, the National Gambling Amendment Act, 2008, seeking to regulate interactive gambling awaits proclamation of the date of its commencement by the President. The National Gambling Policy, 2016, dashes any hope of regulation of interactive gambling, however, as it seeks to embargo the introduction of (new) forms of gambling, including but not limited to interactive gambling. The scourge of problem gambling and the protection of traditional forms of gambling, that is, casinos, are the main reasons for advocating for the continued prohibition of interactive gambling.

Problem gambling is not unique to interactive gambling, but affects all modes of gambling. South Africa is among countries with a high rate of problem gambling. It is feared that interactive gambling will exacerbate the scourge of problem gambling as gamblers with access to the internet will now have unlimited gambling opportunities around the clock. On the other hand, interactive gambling offers practical solutions to the implementation of harm minimisation strategies to deal with problem gambling such as limitations on gambling deposits, losses and time.

Prohibition of interactive gambling is difficult to enforce and deprives the country of an opportunity to control, through licensing, this mode of gambling and possible benefit from taxation and licensing fees. It further exposes gamblers – who despite prohibition choose this mode of gambling – to unregulated and illegal gambling websites. This thesis attempts to provide safeguards for regulation of interactive gambling and to embrace the benefits of the technological development that makes interactive gambling a reality. The United Kingdom (UK) is a prime example of a country that has successfully legalised and licensed interactive gambling in its jurisdiction.

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